Europe Partying Travelling

Boats, Bridges, Baths and Bars in Budapest

Is it just me; or do all the cool things to do in Budapest begin with B? 

Budapest is one of the most easy-going cities in Europe, everything seems designed to encourage relaxing and chilling out. And that is exactly how I planned to spend the few days that I was visiting there.

Budapest Chain Bridge
Budapest Chain Bridge

It started off badly with a rip-off taxi. (Another B?!)

We had come from Vienna—a city that had completely underwhelmed me—but where I had tried couchsurfing for the first time, and where my friend slept flashpacker style at boutique hostel MyMojoVie. We had stopped in Bratislava for the day, eating lunch and sunbathing by the river, and we had arrived in Budapest after dark. Thinking it best to hop in a taxi, we flagged one down near the train station.

He drove for less than a minute and charged us €12. Not a great start!

Budapest is made up of two ancient cities, Buda and Pest, divided by the beautiful Danube River. It became the united city of Budapest in 1873. Surely then, the best way to experience the city is to float along the Danube and see both sides?

Boats and bridges: 

Budapest by boat
Budapest by boat

Our boat cruise took an hour, and we were allowed to come back for free the following day on the same €7 ticket. Drinking a glass of cava, we meandered slowly past the gorgeous parliament buildings, and under the famous bridges of Budapest. The next night we came and did the same trip again at sunset. If you are only doing the cruise once, I would recommend the sunset cruise, although the boat was much busier than during the day.


Outdoor swimming at Szechenyi baths.
Outdoor swimming at Szechenyi baths.

Budapest is famed for an array of gorgeous thermal baths, from the classical Roman architecture of Gellert, to the huge Széchenyi baths where wild parties take place on Friday nights during the summer. We went to Széchenyi in the daytime when it was much more subdued than on party night.

We spent a lovely afternoon swimming in the temperate waters, sunbathing, and trying out the various indoor mineral pools. Although Széchenyi is the busiest of the baths, its vast size is able to cope with the hundreds of bathers that wallow in its warm waters every day. It was very busy, but did not seem overcrowded. If you want a more intimate experience, however, you should consider going to one of the lesser-known baths.


Szimpla: Budapest's original ruin bar
Szimpla: Budapest’s original ruin bar

On the last day in Budapest my friend and I put on dresses, slapped on a full face of make-up, and went to a bar.

As with any other city, Budapest has a multitude of bars and a great nightlife, but if you want something a little different then you should go to one of Budapest’s famous Ruin Bars—makeshift bars set up in the ruins of old derelict buildings that are very popular in the summer. Run-down and shabby, filled with retro furniture and junk, the bar was more reminiscent of something you might find in the backstreets of Bangkok than something in Europe. Especially when combined with Hungary’s low alcohol prices (a nice decrease after Stockholm, Istanbul and Vienna).

Exposed brick and fairylights make up the decor at Szimpla.
Exposed brick and fairylights make up the decor at Szimpla.

That, for me, was the main appeal. Ruin bars are cheap and fun.

There are plenty to choose from, the most popular one being Szimpla Kert. But there are many other ruin bars around the city that are not so full of tourists.

And so ended my four super relaxing days in Budapest—a city that I could have spent much longer in, especially if I were to visit the Parliament buildings, Basilica, and museums.

At least it leaves me a reason to go back.

Have you been to Budapest? Do you have a reason to go back? Have you visited any thermal baths or ruin bars anywhere else? Please come and talk to me in the comments section below!

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